INDIANAPOLIS—If Mike McCarthy’s remarks at last year’s scouting combine are any indication, then Packers fans can expect the Packers to be much better tacklers in 2012.
It was at this event a year ago that McCarthy made it a goal of his offense to score more points in 2011 than it did in 2010. When McCarthy set that goal for the ’11 season, he was only a few weeks removed from victory in Super Bowl XLV.
“Last year we definitely set a standard; second all-time in the NFL. That’s a bar in our building we’ll shoot for every year,” McCarthy said of the 560 points the Packers scored, second only to New England’s 589 in 2007.
The goal for 2012?
“We’re going to be a better tackling team,” McCarthy said in a press conference at Lucas Oil Stadium on Friday. “Our turnover stats reflect the investment we made. Our tackling does not reflect that. Our tackling will be better next year.”
How does a team become better tacklers, he was asked?
“You practice it,” McCarthy said. “We have to be a little more creative in our drill work.”
Heading into a draft evaluation season that’s expected to focus on improving the Packers defensively, McCarthy put his finger on a problem that was prominent on several occasions this past season. His comments harken memories of Bucs running back LeGarrette Blount’s long touchdown run, and of the Packers’ loss to the Giants in the playoffs, when Giants wide receiver Hakeem Nicks bounced off a defender at midfield and turned a short pass into a long touchdown play.
Offensively, the goal in 2012 will be to improve a running game that finished 27th in the league in ’11. McCarthy’s plan for that improvement, which he teased but didn’t fully divulge on Friday, will likely be a subject of attention.
“We’ll have some new ideas. We want to be as explosive as ever on offense. I think how we run the ball will probably change as we head into the new season,” McCarthy said.
It might be important to note that new running backs coach Alex Van Pelt is a former quarterback and quarterbacks coach.
McCarthy dedicated much of his press conference to comments on quarterback Matt Flynn, who’s scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent on March 13. McCarthy made it clear that he believes Flynn is ready to become a starting quarterback.
“He’d like to come back and play with Green Bay. The other side of the fence is he’s earned the position he’s in. In my opinion, he’s ready to be a starter. If I was with a club that was looking for a good young quarterback, he’d be a guy I’d talk to,” McCarthy said of Flynn.
“He’s ready. It’s his time to play. He’s improved every aspect of his game.”
McCarthy also spoke of his satisfaction that the Packers were able to sign tight end Jermichael Finley to a new contract.
“I think we forget how young he is. He has a lot of growth in front of him,” McCarthy said of Finley, a new-age type of tight end who offers his coach heightened scheme potential.
“It helps us create matchups. He’s just getting started. That’s what’s exciting about his individual play. We had a good year on offense, put up a lot of numbers, but we have to find ways to improve and he’ll be a part of it.”
Finley is a tight end/wide receiver hybrid. He mixes the size of a tight end with the speed and athletic ability of a wide receiver.
“There was a time in my career that I got away from playing with the 270-pound tight end that has to be able to block defensive ends. We’ve gone to the more athletic tight end and move them around. We’re playing those guys in space more,” McCarthy said.
McCarthy also commented on the subject of center Scott Wells’ countdown toward unrestricted free agency.
“We’ll figure that out. I’m hopeful and confident things can work out with Scott. If they don’t, we’ll have to move in a different direction,” McCarthy said.
One direction would seem to have already been determined: The Packers are going to spend some time in training camp on becoming better tacklers. Additional coverage - Feb. 24